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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 3, 2001 - Issue 48


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 Sandia Mountains Are The Backdrop For This Years Native American Music Awards


Article and photographs  by Suzanne Westerly


Note: For more photos of this year Native American Music Awards click here: Photos


Sandia Pueblo, NM - The Fourth Annual Native American Music Awards were held outdoors this year with the magnificent Sandia Mountains as the backdrop.

Sandia Pueblo is located at the western foot of the Sandia Mountains just south of Albuquerque. Governor Stuart Paisano welcomed the crowd to the Pueblos beautiful new casino and 3,000-seat amphitheater.

After the opening blessing by Butch Artichoker (Oglala Sioux), a beautiful piece using Universal American Indian Sign language to the prayer, the Great Mystery, was performed by Bonnie Jo Hunt, an operatic concert artist.

Radmilla Cody (Dine) with her grandmother standing beside her sang the National Anthem. Her beautiful and powerful voice made the song unforgettably moving, sung in a language of the First Peoples of this country.

Andrew Vasquez (Kiowa-Apache) Best Male Artist, 2000, Joanne Shenandoah (Oneida) her song Peacemaker's Journey received the award for Best Producer, and Walela, Group of the Year Award sang a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. (Walela is made up of Rita Coolidge who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, her sister Priscilla Coolidge, and Priscilla's daughter Laura Satterfield, all Cherokee,

Charming and gregarious, actor Rodney Grant (Omaha Tribe) was the Master of Ceremonies.

Before each winner was announced, video clips of all the nominees were shown on large screens located on both sides of the stage. The first part of the list of winners were announced, but asked to stay seated as the audience applauded them. Most likely, this occurred to keep the program within a reasonable time period. A few of the winners were; Indigenous (Nakota Nation) for Best Blues, R. Carlos Nakai, (Dine) for Flutist of the Year, Star Nayea for Best Independent Recording, Annie Humphrey (Ojibwe) for Best Folk Recording, Arigon Starr (Kickapoo) for Song Single of the Year, and Robert Mirabal (Taos Pueblo) was the big winner with awards for Songwriter of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Record of the Year. Robert's mom accepted his awards.

50 years ago, a producer with Canyon Records first heard the music of Native artist, Natay (Dine & Ute). He enjoyed Natay so much, he vowed to record more Native American artists, today Canyon Records continues to record many Native artists. Natay, who has over 40 albums, Gold Records, Grammy Award nominations and many Native American Music Awards, received the Lifetime Achievement award.

R. Carlos Nakai (Dine) and his new group the Wilde Boys, which includes Will Clipman, William Eaton and Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog, performed a wonderful piece called Dwelling In the Garden.

The group Brule from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, with father and daughter team Paul and Nicole LaRoche is one of the top contemporary Native American recording acts having sold over 1 million records worldwide. Their music is very moving. On the flute, Nicole gave a stellar performance from her heart.

Amazing 8-year old flutist, Evren Ozan, received NAMA's Rising Star Award. The audience was quite impressed with his beautiful flute music.

Receiving the Jim Thorpe Sports Award this year was Billy Mills, (Lakota Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation) the great Olympic runner who at 26 amazed the world in 1964 as he burst forth near the end of the 10,000-meter race like a flash to receive a Gold Medal.

Keith Secola with the Wild Band of Indians, last years winner for Best Independent Recording, and this years winner for Best Instrumental Recording was joined on stage by John Densmore, the former Doors drummer for an excellent rockin' blues performance.

The group Yarina, which means "remembrance" in their native Quichua language of the Incas, is made up of four brothers. Two of their sisters joined them, dancing to their upbeat music. Their music is a wonderfully diverse combination of jazz, blues, Latin and Western Classical.

Winner of Best World Music Recording, Casper (Hopi) and the 602 Band had people moving in their seats as the group performed their warm positive Reggae music influenced by Caspers traditional Hopi culture.

Crystal Gayle, (part Cherokee) country singer with three dozen hit records and many awards, was inducted into the NAMA Hall of Fame. The audience wanted another song, but there wasn't time and it was getting really cold.

As is typical in the high desert this time of the year, Albuquerque at 5,000', has beautiful and very warm days, but as the sun goes down, so does the temperature. Sitting and watching the Awards, it got very cold. Some people had been wise enough to bring their winter coats and blankets, but most of those in the audience were quite cold but didn't want to miss a minute of the Awards.

Janice-Marie, who was joined on stage by Robert Tree Cody, winner of Male Artist of the Year award, was the last performance. Janice-Marie's incredibly hot performance had the crowd dancing and forgetting they were cold. She was fabulous, a dichotomy as she walked out on stage in an elegant black silver dress and then "got down" playing the bass with passion as she belted out Boogie, Oogie Oogie, her Grammy award winning multi-platinum smash.

Later, Janice-Marie said the only way she was able to play the guitar was to "warm my fingers by putting them in a hot cup of coffee."

After the Award show, people were happy to go indoors to the VIP party held in a large room in the casino. Unable to shoot during the show, this is where I was finally able to take photos and interview quite a few of the artists, which you will read about in future editions.

For a comprehensive list of winners, look at the web site. For more photos of the show, click Photos.

The entire program was broadcast live on radio stations throughout the country and Koahnic Broadcast Corporation ran it live on the Internet. Parts of the program will be used in an international television special called, Concert For America.

Sponsors for the evening were, the Pueblo of Sandia, the Navajo Arts & Humanities Council, the Muckleshoot Tribe, Subway, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Cow Creek Upqua Tribe, HBO, Bessoms Gardens and the Institute of American Indian Arts, who helped create the set.


Suzanne Westerly
Photographer / Writer
3860 Las Flores Canyon
Malibu, California  90265
land phone - 310-317-6922
cell phone - 310-569-1644

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

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